2011 Tabor Medal and Prize

Professor Andrew Turberfield

University of Oxford

For his seminal contributions to nano-science, in particular, for pioneering the technique of holographic lithography and DNA self-assembly.

Andrew Turberfield has developed new methods to make nanostructrures. In particular, in collaboration with Robert Denning (Oxford Chemistry), he has pioneered the technique of holographic lithography for the fabrication of three-dimensional photonic crystals. The 3D microstructure is generated photochemically by using a four-beam laser interference pattern to expose a thick layer of photoresist with the aim of enabling microfabrication of waveguides and resonators that operate within the photonic band gap. Such structures have the potential to reduce the characteristic size of integrated optical devices by two orders of magnitude, to a scale comparable to that of integrated electronics.

He has also developed new methods of using DNA to make nanostructures. DNA can be used as a molecular glue, as the fuel for molecular engines, and as a structural material in self-assembling nanostructures. It is the ability of DNA to store information that is the key to its use: the interactions that hold a nanostructure together are encoded in the base sequences of the component oligonucleotides. Sections that are designed to bind together are given complementary sequences; other sections are given sequences that are as different as possible to minimize unintended interactions. 

At its simplest, building with DNA is like building a Lego model by designing the bricks such that they can only fit together in one way - and then putting them in a bag and shaking it. Andrew Turberfield is using this technique to make synthetic molecular motors, artificial crystals that act as "scaffolds" in protein crystallography experiments and nanostructures such as DNA tetrahedra that have the promise of leading to revolutionary new methods of drug delivery.